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Colorado Criminal Law – What Should I Expect Of My Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer?

By H. Michael Steinberg Denver, Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer

Colorado Criminal Law - What Should I Expect Of My Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer

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Colorado Criminal Law – What Should I Expect Of My Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer

Colorado Criminal Law – What Should I Expect Of My Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer? – Confused? Frightened? Intimidated by the Colorado criminal justice system – a person accused of having committed a crime turns to a lawyer. What does that lawyer actually do for the client?

The role of the lawyer at this frightening time is little understood by the person accused. This article is intended to review the basic nature of the attorney-client relationship.


What Are A Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Basic Responsibilities?

Experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyers know that thorough and effective legal representation requires a “holistic” approach. Unlike other kinds of lawyers, criminal defense lawyers represent an important and enduring check on the power of the state as that power attempts to reduce or even destroy the accused’s precious liberty interests.

The goal of a criminal defense lawyer is not obstruct “just to obstruct” but to protect the rights of their clients at every possible stage in the proceedings and to do so intelligently and effectively. The simplistic pit pull image of criminal defense lawyers misses the point – the experienced criminal defense lawyer knows what strategies and tactics work in their client’s best interests – making everyone despise you may make the client happy in the short term but will lose the case in the long term.

Lawyers:

  • provide their clients with an informed understanding of their legal rights and obligations.
  • carefully and thoroughly explains the “practical implications” of those legal rights and obligations to their client.
  • zealously asserts their client’s position persuasively and effectively and uses the sometimes complex rules of the criminal justice system to attack the States’ case. 
  • evaluates and negotiates plea agreements – (when necessary) – consistent with their client’s wishes and  the client’s lifetime goals.
  • honestly and completely reports the facts and the law to their clients and their families.

Your Lawyer Should Never Leave His Or Her Conscience At Home

The experienced criminal lawyer knows to never to leave their conscience at home. A lawyer’s conscience guides that lawyer to understand the perceptions of other players in the criminal justice system – especially DA’s, Trial Judges, and most importantly, the juries who decide the fate of the criminal defense lawyer’s clients.

The Need To Carefully Preserve A Client’s Confidences

Those accused of crime must put their complete faith in their criminal defense lawyer. Preserving client confidences is essential to the kind of complete and “laid bare” honesty that must exist between lawyer and client. A person needing a lawyer will only seek the legal advice of that lawyer when they are assured that their communications will be kept private and they know their lawyer will use their experience, legal knowledge, and skill, to include thorough and total preparation of their case with the goal of successful representation of that client.

One aspect of the need to preserve confidences is the need for absolute confidentiality in all public and private locations. As noted below, all interviews must be done in secret. The lawyer’s file, notes, discovery, or any other case-related documents can never be disclosed to anyone without the client’s express permission. The obligation to keep confidences is absolute, with no exceptions, for a reason…TRUST.

Not All Lawyers Are The Right Lawyers For Colorado Criminal Cases

A lawyer’s knowledge and skill in a particular area of law must meet the client’s realistic expectations. Whether a criminal defense lawyer has the requisite knowledge and skill in a particular matter involves such factors as the relative complexity of the crime or crimes charged, the specialized nature of the criminal matter, and the lawyer’s lifetime legal experience in that area of criminal law.

The ethical criminal defense lawyer will know when his or her training and experience in the relevant field of the crime charged reaches the level of “established competence” necessary to effectively represent the client in question. The issue is this – does the case require a specialist and has this lawyer attained the required proficiency of a “specialist” in this field?

Understanding The Importance Of A Criminal Lawyer’s Level Of Experience

Unlike many other professions, lawyer’s skills are less obvious and clear to the public. Legal skills such as analyzing cases that have come before the client’s (precedents), evaluating the evidence in a case and it’s predicted impact on the DA, Judge – or eventually a jury, legal writing and powerful oratory in the courtroom – all are required to solve the legal “problem” that is your case. All of these skills are not well understood in the mind of the general public.

In the area of criminal law, the most basic and most important of these legal skills is the application of the right strategy to a given set of complex facts and law. That is why it is important to retain a lawyer who specializes in the area of your case – for me that has always been – criminal law. The skill that the “lawyer specialist” brings to the table – the particular specialized knowledge that is needed in your case – may also be the kind of novel thinking that a generalist attorney will lack.

The Effective Handling Of A Criminal Case Requires Both Thoroughness and Preparation

An analysis of BOTH the factual and legal elements of  a criminal charge not only requires specialization but the criminal lawyer must have the TIME to use the methods and procedures that are required by the case at issue. The stakes increase proportionally to the seriousness of the charge and the final impact of a conviction for the crime charged. Complex crimes such as white collar, sex crimes, serious assaults (e.g. domestic violence cases) and the like, require more extensive time than matters that are simpler and less complex such as DUI cases.

In order to stay abreast of the ever changing law in Colorado – especially in the most dynamic of all areas of law – criminal law, your lawyer should maintain a nearly daily study of every new statute, newly issued case decisions, and the writings of experts in the field.

Good criminal defense lawyers know that Trial Judges will rely on criminal defense attorneys to not only advocate on their client’s behalf, but, as “zealous advocates,” advise the Court of the new laws, trends, and, for that matter, old laws that persuade the Court to properly rule on every important issue.

Giving A “Voice” To The Accused – The Client Centered Practice Of Law

A lawyer is  not a parent. At every stage of the case, it is the informed client that ultimately decides what is in his or her best interest not the lawyer. It is the client’s “expressed interest,” not the client’s “best interest” as determined by the criminal defense lawyer, the DA or even the Judge, that should control the course of a case.

A criminal defense lawyer must never assume they know “what is best for the client.” Using the “client centered model of advocacy” places the client at the top of the decision maker pyramid. The criminal defense lawyer’s job, in my opinion, is like an advisor to the President of the United States. The experienced lawyer, shows genuine, but not patronizing respect for the client’s perspective, and thoroughly explains ALL OF THE AVAILABLE OPTIONS to the client and then works hard to make certain the client understands the consequences of each option in a given case. Then the client, like the President, makes the decision.

This means that at every stage of the criminal case – from investigation to indictment or the filing of a complaint, the Colorado criminal defense lawyer makes certain the client has complete information that thoroughly addresses all facets of their case and that includes direct (if not blunt) and honest predictions as regards both the short and long term consequences of every option available.

The Attorney Client Relationship And The Need For Privacy

It may seem like a small matter at first, but many conferences between lawyer and client take place at the courthouse. Colorado criminal defense lawyers must make certain that they “safeguard” their client’s confidentiality at all times. All important attorney-client discussions should take place in a private environment. Sometimes this is difficult at the courthouse. When that is the case, if private interview rooms are not available, the lawyer should locate the best location where attorney-client conferences can be as private as possible trying to avoid impromptu conferences in hallways, at the jail, or within the earshot of either inmates or the police.

The Duty To Investigate And Exercise Due Diligence In Examining The State’s Case

Advice is only as good as the experience of the lawyer and the due diligence that lawyer exercises in learning about the strength of the case against their client. That means a thorough look at the investigation performed by the state.

Making discovery is the first step in the process. Copying the government’s file, which includes police reports, the results of forensic examinations, other tests, photographs if any, and the close examination of any other evidence is critically important.

Then, after absorbing the State’s case, pursuing any possible exculpatory investigatory leads and assessing both sides of the case, the lawyer provides a fair and informed assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of that case to the client.

Exculpatory evidence is locating witnesses, forensic evidence, tangible objects and any other evidence that tends to “exculpate”  – lessen the guilty of the criminal defense lawyer’s client. It also means looking for any legal technicality that could be used to exclude evidence assembled by the State and to prevent that evidence from ever reaching the jury’s ears.

An investigation also means listening to the client for leads and then following those leads, if relevant, for example looking at the police conduct in the case, examining the personal and professional backgrounds of the witnesses’ involved and uncovering any other possible defenses and mitigating factors to use in negotiating with the prosecution.

When The State’s Case Is Strong – Plea Bargaining Becomes Necessary – Understanding “Dispositional Advocacy”

Sometimes called “dispositional planning” – an experienced criminal defense lawyer knows – and he or she usually knows early in the case after the investigation is concluded – what a jury would probably conclude from the State’s evidence. If the lawyer knows that his client will most likely be found guilty after a trial, then there is a shift to what I call the ” second track” of criminal defense.

It is then, at that time, when it is clear to the criminal defense lawyer that a conviction is almost certain – the “best result” becomes a plea bargain and among the possible plea bargains, the lawyer will seek the “least restrictive disposition available” to the client – seeking a disposition using a clearly thought out tactical and strategic approach.

Plea bargaining is an art form. At the pretrial conference, the experienced lawyer presents the case to the prosecutor using as creative and comprehensive “strengths-based” approach as possible, always aware of all alternatives consistent with their client’s expressed interests.

But before the outlines of an “acceptable” plea bargain are clear, the criminal defense lawyer must thoroughly engages his client by helping his client identify and thoroughly understand and then weigh the available options.

This advisement will include not only the choices of the “knowns” – such as which charge is the most acceptable to “plea” to – but the nature of the presentence investigation process that precedes sentencing, the evidence to be presented at that sentencing which included the role of oral and written statements of the client and the client’s family and/or friends at the sentencing hearing.

The experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyer knows that the negotiation of “reasonable plea offers” can be a long and tedious process which is best performed face to face with prosecutors who often have little or no time to “listen.”

All plea bargain offers must be promptly and immediately relayed to the client to include a thorough review of all facets of the offer and the impact and consequences of the agreement both short and long term to the client’s life. This almost constant advisement means an explanation of the trial and appellate rights the client is giving up in exchange for the plea bargain offer – what terms of the sentence are left to the judge, and which terms covered in the stipulations of the plea agreement.

The client must be given the necessary time to make up his or her mind and should NEVER be rushed to make a decision.

Allocution At The Sentencing Hearing

When a Defendant speaks at his or her sentencing – it is called exercising the right to allocution.

Allocution by the client often is a critical component of the plea bargain process – as often plea bargains are not total and comprehensive agreements which include “stipulations” to every aspect of the sentence. In many jurisdictions in Colorado Judge’s will only accept “charge” bargaining meaning much of the sentence is left totally to the Judge at the sentencing hearing.

Summary And Conclusion

The Colorado criminal defense lawyer has a complex and often “intense” professional relationship with his or her lawyer – I hope I have shed at least a little light on the nature of that relationship.

Colorado Criminal Law – What Should I Expect Of My Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer?

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Never stop fighting – never stop believing in yourself and your right to due process of law.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at hmsteinberg@hotmail.com – A Denver Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – 720-220-2277. Attorney H. Michael Steinberg is passionate about criminal defense. His extensive knowledge and experience of Colorado Criminal Law gives him the edge you need to properly handle your case.

You should be careful to make a responsible choice in selecting a Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – and we encourage you to “vet” our firm. Over the last 30 plus years – by focusing ONLY on Colorado criminal law – H. Michael has had the necessary time to commit to the task of constantly updating himself on nearly every area of criminal law, to include Colorado criminal law and procedure and trial and courtroom practice. H. Michael works hard to get his clients the best possible results in and out of the courtroom. He has written, and continues to write, extensively on Colorado criminal law and he hopes this article helps you in some small way – Colorado Criminal Law – What Should I Expect Of My Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer?

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Colorado Criminal Law - What Should I Expect Of My Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer?
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Colorado Criminal Law - What Should I Expect Of My Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer?
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Confused? Frightened? Intimidated by the Colorado criminal justice system - a person accused of having committed a crime turns to a lawyer. What does that lawyer. The role of the lawyer in this frightening time is little understood by the person accused. This article is intended to review the basic nature of the attorney-client relationship.
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H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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5445 DTC Parkway, Penthouse 4
Greenwood Village, Colorado, 80111
Primary Web Site:  http://www.HMichaelSteinberg.com
Colorado Criminal Law Blog:  www.Colorado-Criminal-Lawyer-Online.com
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